When a virus at Christmas is a good thing: real-time giving video goes viral

There has been considerable interest in the video we posted on Monday: WestJet Christmas Miracle: real-time giving. The video has since gone viral and across the world, people are wondering where this came from. The answer is simple: we wanted to do something for our guests to show that we care. Speculation abounds but I want to be clear –this wasn’t about branding; this was about you. This was for the Hughes family, for socks and underwear guy, for the Android kid and the twins (who DID get their toys). At the end of the day, it was about creating a remarkable experience, something that would live with our guests far beyond their WestJet flight – and we wanted to share it with all of you, too.

I am not a guy easily given to tears but when the Hughes family saw what came off the carousel, I admit that my eyes were… sweating. No one could script the emotional reaction of our guests to the simple gesture of a gift given for the sake of making someone’s day.

The reaction of families receiving their Christmas wishes, and the reactions of the more than three million people who have since viewed the video, serve to reaffirm one of the most tried and true messages surrounding Christmas; it is better to give than to receive. As we began to watch the reactions pour in and the number of people seeing the video rise, a few visions have danced through my head:

Hour 1 – a few thousand views. OK, not bad, keep in mind it’s hour one, but I start to wonder how many days it will take to reach 200,000 so we could give the gift of flight to one of our Ronald McDonald House Charities families.

Hour 3 – it is starting to pick up. More than 20,000 views; almost at last year’s day one total. The little airline that could is making some waves. News outlets are calling and we are happy to say hello!

Hour 8 – Whoa! Mashable? We aren’t ‘Hot’ yet but we will be in a few more hours, especially after that “Velocity Alert”! Insert another video, this one is of me dancing a small jig at the office (shout out to our new friends in Dublin).

Hour 12 – devour.com? Share, share, share, just like momma taught me way back in preschool, only now it’s way more fun.

Hour 16 – 100,000 views? Is it possible? Can we hit 200,000 views in under 24 hours? Can we make a family’s wish come true?

Day 2 – CTV, CNN, ABC, The Daily Mail, The View – they are all knocking at once. As I rub the sleep from my eyes I see a few unexpected zeroes behind the number of views. I rub my eyes again, and again, and once more then we start on the call-backs to major news networks across North America. We hit one million views. Ronald McDonald House Charities will be getting a very merry phone call!

The coverage is exciting and the achieving three million views is a great milestone, but not nearly as exciting as watching people around the world dig a little deeper. More than a few people were quite sympathetic to the guy who offered a simple but valid response to the question “what do you need?” His reply would make his mother proud as he earnestly replied “socks and underwear.” Now affectionately known as Socks and Underwear Guy, he’s swept the nation, he’s international – we’ve created something bigger than the Christmas Miracle, we’ve created “Socks and Underwear Guy.” I’m sure he’ll have syndicated his own show by the time this blog post is up! We just hope he remembers us years from now.

Before I sign off, I need to send a shout out to the many dedicated WestJetters who helped make this idea a reality. Our team is still overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for the project and your time and effort that went into this. Everyone in this video gave his or her own time to make this miracle come true. In true WestJet spirit they did it all with a smile on their face. Even the greatest honorary WestJetter of all (the jolly old man himself) made a great contribution. Thank you Santa for lending an ear and bringing some holiday magic to our little airline. He has quite the sense of humor!

To everyone who has worked on the video, viewed the video or enjoyed a great day with real-time giving, we at WestJet are grateful to have had the opportunity to give.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight!